On Toe Jam and Sacraments

20 03 2008

Growing up in my particular protestant tradition, I never really understood Maundy Thursday.  As you might do as well, we would jokingly refer to it as “Monday Thursday” out of ignorance of what it really meant.

For the first year in my pastoral ministry, I’m preparing a special service.  Maundy Thursday commemorates the giving of the Lord’s Supper, and is often celebrated with foot washings in memory of Jesus’ act of servanthood towards the disciples.

lord’s supper communion maundy thursdayI’m not given to believe that foot washing is a sacrament; there is no suggestion or command to commemorate it.  I, for one, do not participate in such events simply because I have a great aversion to feet!  Everyone has something that is hard to stomach, and for me, anything podiatrically related does my digestive system in.

I suspect that we miss the true meaning of the foot washing event.  Today it has far less significance in that, with the exception of the hygienically impaired, people’s feet are not as filthy as they were in sandal wearing days.  Even exposed piggies do not receive near the exposure to filth of varying degrees they once did.   So, the foot washings of today lack the relevance of the original act of service that Christ extended to His disciples.

I really like the idea that on Maundy Thursday, the monarchs of England give coins to the needy.  Herein lies the recipe for true service that this day calls us towards.  Christ commanded us to love, and to remember His sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.  One of the many facets of this sacrifice involves setting the example for our lives.  The greatest rewards in this life come when we live sacrificially for others.  Therefore, beyond commemoration of the giving of the Lord’s Supper, Maundy Thursday stands as a reminder that sacrifice brings new life and great joy.

Should we do foot washings?  I would never dismiss such a ritual if it truly has meaning for you.  But like all things, if its significance has worn thin, then its time to move on.  It is not a sacrament.  On the other hand, we must find ways to express servanthood to each other through our giving of ourselves and our resources.   This is the heart of the Maundy Thursday message, and it’s where my heart is today.  May God richly bless you.




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